A recent blog post called 15 Things You Should Give Up to be Happy offered some practical advice for how people can make a difference to their comfort levels. The changes suggest involved giving up certain negative behaviors and beliefs. None of this advice would be described as groundbreaking, and it doesn’t require people to make any drastic changes to their life. The wonderful thing about these suggestions is that they are simple yet highly effective. When applied to somebody who is recovering from an addiction this advice may even have more value.
All humans want to be happy – even those who do things that move them away from this. It is often fairly claimed that it is this desire for happiness that drives the human race. In western culture there is the common assumption that people deserve to be happy, and that getting in the way of other people’s happiness is a bad thing.
Finding happiness is of particular important to people in recovery because:
* If people feel comfortable in their new life away from addiction they will fight harder to keep it. Those individuals who sober up but fail to find happiness are more likely to relapse.
* Those individuals who have been through the hell of addiction will have suffered a great deal. They owe it to themselves to find happiness in recovery.
* The family and friends of the addict are likely to have suffered as well. When they see this individual turn their life around and find happiness it will benefit them too – even if it is only because they have less to worry about.
* It is this striving for happiness that encourages people to grow and develop. The individual will continue to chip away at their character flaws because they feel certain that this will bring them towards greater happiness.
* Those individuals who find happiness in recovery are inspirational people. They inspire those who are still struggling with addiction to give sobriety a chance.
It could be said that addiction recovery is all about giving things up. The most important thing that the individual gives up is alcohol or drugs. Until they take that step there cannot be any further progress. This giving up of addiction is only the start though, because the individual will be expected to give up much more if they hope to find real happiness in life. The reason why the individual turned to alcohol or drugs in the first place was because of things that were making their life uncomfortable. These things are likely to be still there when they enter recovery so they need to work hard at eradicating them – this is usually achieved by giving certain beliefs and behaviors up.
The 15 things that people should consider giving up in recovery include:
One of the most important ways that humans learn is by making mistakes. Those who refuse to acknowledge their mistakes will struggle to learn anything. The reason why people can become obsessed with being right all the time is that they have allowed their beliefs and opinions to be too closely connected to their self esteem. They believe that if their beliefs or opinions are wrong it means that they are wrong, but this is untrue. Humans are fallible creatures and they are allowed to be wrong. Those individuals who do not have the humility to accept this will find it hard to grow in recovery.
One of the most important elements of the 12 Step program is that it teaches people to let go – in fact this is what almost all spiritual paths teach. When people put their trust in the universe it will make their life easier and lead them to happiness. This is summed up in the prayer:
_God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference_.
There is no need to believe in any particular God to benefit from the serenity prayer.
The individual has to take responsibility for their own life. Constantly blaming other people will not lead to any type of progress. It is just an excuse to avoid taking action. By blaming other people the individual is giving away their power.
People have an internal dialogue that can have an influence on how they perceive the world and their place in it. Those individuals who have low self esteem may have an inner self talk that is constantly negative and critical about things. This inner voice is always telling the individual that they are no good or not worthy of happiness. It is vital to ignore this negativity and instead move towards more positive self talk.
If people are willing to settle for the bare minimum in recovery the chances are that this is what they will end up with. People are limited by how they view their own potential. In order to find real success the individual will need to break through these self imposed barriers.
Complaining about life accomplishes nothing. All it does is creates negativity and drains the individual’s motivation. There is the famous saying, if life gives you lemons you should make lemonade. Too much complaining is dangerous for people in recovery because it can easily lead to stinking thinking. Instead of focusing on what is wrong with the world the individual should put their attention on making the most of things.
It is easy to criticize but it is a luxury that people in recovery cannot really afford. Each human is doing the best they can, and the best advice is for people to focus on doing the best they can.
The truth is that humans are attracted to humans for who they are and not who they are pretending to be. Those who pretend to be something they are not will usually sound insincere or be perceived as a fake. The only thing that the individual needs to do to impress other people is for them to be themselves.
Change is an unstoppable force in the universe, and to fight against it will usually lead to suffering. Humans tend to feel threatened by change, but when they embrace it they will find that it makes life a whole lot more interesting. Of course this is not to say that changing just for the sake of change is always a good thing.
People tend to feel more comfortable when they can put a label on things. The problem is that this can lead to dismissing things out of hand or judging things unfairly. There can be a kneejerk temptation for the individual to label everything they do not understand as bad or threatening. This is an ineffective way of dealing with life. It is best to cultivate a beginner’s mind. This means that people are able to put aside their labels and approach new things with an open mind.
Fear only exists in the mind. Each individual has the choice of giving up their fears. When they are able to do this it increases their freedom.
Excuses are worthless. In fact they are worse than worthless because they give the individual a justification to not do the right thing. In order to progress in recovery the individual will need to do what is required – no excuses.
Bill Keane famously said:
_Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present_.
What’s done is done. In order to go forward in recovery the individual needs to make peace with their past. They need to accept that they are a different person today and forgive themselves completely for past mistakes. The best that humans can do in life is to be the best they can now.
Attachment to Certain Conditions
The Buddha advised his followers that they should free themselves from attachment – there is no need to be a Buddhist in order to benefit from this advice. Recovery is all about developing emotional sobriety and serenity. This means that the individual develops an inner tranquility that is not dependent on external conditions. By giving up their attachment on things being a certain way the individual is able to enjoy peace no matter what is happening in their life.
Living Life to Please Other People
William Shakespeare advised:
_To thine own self be true_.
This encourages people to live their life in accord with their own values and beliefs. The problem with trying to please other people all the time is that in the end nobody is happy. The individual is trying to be something they’re not and this will cause them to become resentful and unhappy.
The past is gone, and there is nothing you can do about it unless you are in possession of a time machine! the future, however, hasn’t happened yet, so really that leaves you with only one place to live. The present. It is called the ‘present’ because it is a gift. Your ability to change your circumstances for the better is constantly revealing itself to you with every moment. This does not mean living in the moment with abandon, however!. It means affecting your future through the only tool you have with which to do that – the present moment. If you direct all your attention to it your life will change in positive ways you can scarcely imagine.
Being self-involved is not the same as being selfish.
In fact, sometimes being selfish for short spaces of time is actually the most ethical and productive thing to do. For example, when you are getting the safety briefing on any flight they will always say ‘in the event of the cabin losing pressure place your oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others’
The reason they do this is that they know the natural instinct of, say, a mother for her child, will be to attend to their infant first. If this plays out, of course, the mother would lose consciousness and then by consequence, so to the child. They are basically saying, ‘be momentarily selfish with your oxygen, so you can be altruistic with your care.
It is important for addicts in early recovery, for example, to realise that there are times when they might need to be briefly ‘selfish’ in order to prevent relapse. being a martyr to other people is no use if it sends you back down into the pit of addiction where you are no use to anyone!
Being ‘self-involved‘ however, refers to that state of affairs where you are constantly introspecting, constantly lamenting, and mindlessly disconnecting yourself from the needs and care of others. One of the goals of rehab is to ‘reconnect’ you to the world around you; to nature, other people, and ultimately to your most authentic self.